Kenosha Unified School District Deploys InformaCast

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From Kenosha News

The implementation allows Sheriff’s department access to 1,400 cameras districtwide

The following story written by Jon Brines appeared in the Kenosha News on 8/26/2014

When Kenosha Unified School District students hit the books this year, they’ll be under the watchful eye of new cameras and a $1.5 million security upgrade.

The district is upgrading its 600 existing cameras, some black and white, and adding 800 more, some with technology so clear viewers will be able to identify license plates in parking lots at its 42 schools. Classrooms will also come equipped with phones.

“It’s a big change,” Unified’s Facilities Director Patrick Finnemore said.

Live or on tape

Principals have access to cameras to check out things like pushing and shoving in halls, vandalism or bullies in the lunchroom. They can view events live or recall them through digitized memory.

The cameras are located in hallways, cafeterias and parking lots but not in classrooms, Finnemore said.

“The schools have access to all of their cameras. The Sheriff’s Department and emergency response teams at the district level will have access to all the cameras in all the buildings,” Finnemore said.

Crisis readiness

Deputies will soon be able to pull up live camera feeds from the district’s 1,400 cameras from their mobile command center during emergencies by accessing a cloud-based system called InformaCast by Singlewire. Sgt. Bill Beth, Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, said that access will be used for active threats.

“To have video inside a building where there is a crisis going on is incredibly helpful,” Beth said.

The system was created for active-shooter threats.

“The primary purpose of this investment is student and staff safety in the event of one of these horrific-type events,” Finnemore said.

Lessons learned from the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 and at Virginia Tech in 2007 have prompted the changes, Finnemore said.

“We’d like to think it won’t happen, but there has certainly been enough of those events that have happened in our country so we can’t ignore that,” Finnemore said. “We have to do what we can to be prepared.”

Phones In classroom

The phone system is designed for a teacher who experiences a problem to enter a code that will immediately produce a pre-recorded announcement.

That announcement will go through the public address system, alerting everyone with instructions that could include a lockdown, fire, tornado or even a chemical leak. The code will also give authorities a precise location with corresponding building schematics.

The last school scare for the Sheriff’s Department was about three years ago at Edward Bain School of Language and Art.

“A kid said, ‘I saw this guy with a gun,’” Beth said. “That turned out to be a really good exercise.”

The suspect was never found. The lockdown, school search and evacuation worked well, but lessons learned helped update future planning.

“It used to be when schools would go into lockdown there wouldn’t be a lot of information. Now we’re going to have a lot more information at our fingertips,” Finnemore